Become a Radiation Therapist

One of the most interesting advances in medical technology in the past hundred years is radiation therapy. Radiation therapy is used to treat many different kinds of cancer. Radiation therapists use the latest technology to bombard cancer cells with radiation. The theory behind it is that radiation damages DNA. By targeting cancer cells with x-rays or gamma rays, therapists damage the genetic material of cancer cells, preventing them from duplicating or spreading. The therapies are very complicated and sensitive. Radiation therapy is a very specific career skill set that requires the right training in the use of the technology involved.

There are several kinds of radiation therapy used to combat cancer. External beam therapy uses a machine to send radiation through the body. Radiation therapists must fully understand the use and theory of this kind of radiation and its accompanying technology. A second kind of radiation therapy is called brachytherapy. A radiation therapist, working in cooperation with a radiation oncologist, introduces radioactive material into the blood stream near cancer cells. This also requires special training. Radiation is not only dangerous for cancer cells but can also damage healthy cells, so its use requires expertise and experience.

The first step to take to become a radiation therapist is to decide on the kind of degree program you will enter. Although it is one of the earliest decisions you will make, it may be the most important. Everything that follows, from salary slotting to room for advancement to the demographic of patients, can be traced back to the educational decisions made. One of the truisms of education is that the better your education, the higher your salary. Many studies over the years show that a postgraduate degree adds hundreds of thousands of dollars to a personís lifetime earnings over their peers that lack such degrees.

In order to become a radiation therapist, you must be prepared for the rigors of a medical education. There is the so-called didactic curriculum, which covers all of the scientific classes held in a lecture hall. Students study physiology and oncology. They learn about the history and current practice of radiation therapy. They also learn about dangers associated with radiation and the safety measures that protect patients and physicians. Clinical education involves working with equipment and patients, learning the actual physical procedures involved in treating patients with radiation. This entails working with machines and radioactive material. It means finding veins and drawing blood. Clinical education also means working with patients and learning the intricacies of dealing with sick, and even terminal, people.

Radiation therapists work with radiation oncologists and other members of a health care team. Patient care is also an important part of the job. Radiation therapy often causes anxiety for patients and their families. This job requires an ability to communicate clearly and forcefully. It also requires a degree of empathy. When considering whether to become a radiation therapist, candidates must examine their own characters to discover whether they can accept the responsibility of patient care along with the rewards it offers.

The reasons to become a radiation therapist are many. Therapists get paid a premium salary, like other medical professionals, to encourage them to go through the arduous and expensive process of their education. They also work in stimulating environments where they receive the respect of peers and clients. Perhaps the most important reason to become a radiation therapist is to help your fellow humans. This is a job that, when performed deftly, can save lives.

Last Updated: 05/22/2014